Novel, novella, short story, Kindle Single, which way to go?

One of the big unknowns right now in the rapidly changing world of digital publishing is the viability of short form fiction. Not so long ago, the general sentiment was that short stories and novellas were dying breeds, strangled by a combination of the cost of producing them in paper form and the lower price point they required.

Those limiting factors are gone now in digital publishing. A writer can sell a single 1,500 word short story on Amazon, or he can bundle a series of stories into a collection, or he can opt to write 35,000 word novellas instead of 75,000 word novels.

Amazon has tried to get ahead of the curve on this facet of the digital market with the introduction in 2011 of Kindle Singles. Kindle Singles are works usually between 5,000 and 30,000 words. Amazon has established a submission process for Kindle Singles, so that each work must meet Amazon’s threshold quality assurance check before it qualifies for publication through the program.

Here is the current submission policy as it appears on Amazon’s site:

Anyone can submit original work to Kindle Singles. We’ve showcased writing from both new and established voices–from bestselling novelists to previously unpublished writers. We’re looking for compelling ideas expressed at their natural length–writing that doesn’t easily fall into the conventional space limitations of magazines or print books. Kindle Singles are typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words. A Kindle Single can be on any topic. So far we’ve posted fiction, essays, memoirs, reporting, personal narratives, and profiles, and we’re expanding our selection every week. We’re looking for high-quality writing, fresh and original ideas, and well-executed stories in all genres and subjects.

How to submit

We will consider ebooks recently published via Kindle Direct Publishing, manuscript submissions, or pitches.

• To nominate your self-published book, simply email us at kindle-singles@amazon.com and include the title, ASIN, and a brief summary.  • If the work is not yet published, you can submit a manuscript or a detailed pitch for your Kindle Single. Send as much material as you have available to kindle-singles@amazon.com and include your name and a writing sample.  • All manuscripts submitted as attachments must be accompanied by a cover letter with a detailed summary of the submission.

• Writers or publishers wishing to propose an idea for a Kindle Single can write to our editors at kindle-singles@amazon.com.

Selection process

Each submission is carefully reviewed by our editors. Once your submission is received, we will read and respond within four weeks. If we are interested in your submission or pitch, we will provide you with further instructions on how to submit your title via Kindle Direct Publishing and any additional next steps.

Rights and Royalties

Accepted Kindle Singles are published using the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which means that the author earns royalties on each sale. Kindle Singles must have list prices between $0.99 and $4.99, and authors can choose the 70% royalty option for their accepted titles, even when the list price is below $2.99. All other Terms and Conditions of Kindle Direct Publishing will also apply to content sold as a Kindle Single. Writers retain all rights to their work when accepted and published in Kindle Singles. We will consider Kindle Singles from authors, publishers, and agents, and you will need to confirm that you have the rights to publish the work you upload. If accepted, your Kindle Single must be made available in all territories where you have rights, so Kindle customers around the world have the option to purchase your title. Like all Kindle books, Kindle Singles are buyable and readable across the entire Kindle family of devices, as well as on our Free Kindle Reading Apps (Kindle for iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Mac, PC, BlackBerry, Android, etc.).

Kindle Singles Criteria

• Length: 5,000 to 30,000 words • List price: $0.99 to $4.99 • Original work, not previously published in other formats or publications • Self-contained work, not chapters excerpted from a longer work • Not published on any public website in its entirety • We are currently not accepting how-to manuals, public domain works, reference books, travel guides, or children’s books.

 I would love to hear from you about which way you think the wind is blowing on this.  Moving forward, should more writers focus on short form fiction, long form, or a combination of both?  Have you submitted anything for the Kindle Singles program?  Which way are you planning to go over the course of the next twelve months?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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  • Thanks Stephen for drawing our attention to this subject. I agree with you, it looks like a fast upcoming area that could perhaps grow big, coming close to novels that still take the lion’s share of fiction publishing. Short fiction will probably never displace long fiction, but it is supremely well-adapted to the digital age and the time pressure we all live under…So, yes, you can expect it to become big and that’s the bet Amazon made when they set up their Kindle Singles program a couple of years ago. I tried it once and got rejected (standard letter of rejection – no explanation given) and I got the distinct impression that to attract their attention takes more than a standard query. I’m not sure what their publishing policy is but I suspect that if you submit something you’ve already published, it had better look good in terms of sales and rankings or else…And of course, unlike traditional literary agents and publishers, they’re in pole position to know EXACTLY how you’re doing as a writer – whether you sell or not.
    But I could be wrong on that. I’d love to hear from other commenters what their experience has been like.

    • Claude, thanks for your thoughtful comment. As Emma Calin pointed out in her comment, I think we may be approaching an iTunes sort of shift in ebooks toward singles. If so, authors may need to adjust their thinking to include all these various forms in their writing repertoire.

  • Caleb Pirtle

    With the world of digital publishing changing all of the rules, I figure we might as well try them all and discover our proper niche, as well as find our target audience of readers. Every writer has a definite market out there. We just need to keep shooting until we hit ours.

  • Emma Calin

    My belief is that 5,000 words is too long, particularly if you are adding audio. Attention spans are short and a truly short story truly is a story and no more. I find that 1500 – 2,000 word stories sell at 99cents and that the audio is the factor. TV commercial makers know about true shorts and I think writers have to use the whole width of the road these days. I have just released “The Chosen” as a short with audio and I’ll let you know how it sells. The i Tunes experience should show everyone that the short “single” at a low price is still a winner.

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